Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Snakes fans and players' families, but there's plenty of it if Huntsville is to be the Cottonmouths' first-round playoff opponent.
It seems that the Von Braun Center has booked a rodeo and the Havoc is moving its home dates to a practice rink. The Huntsville Times is reporting this morning that the Wilcoxon Iceplex seats 1,000. I'm hearing it's actually fewer than 700. The number 640 is the figure I heard.
Make that 638. Thanks to Ashley Balch of the Havoc front office, your trusty beat writer and her travel companion will be there. Lindsey and I will make the trip and have been guaranteed seats. So that leaves 638....for Huntsville season ticket holders. :(
The grapevine tells me that NO tickets will be offered for Cottonmouths fans. Hold on...it gets worse.
I've also been told that there will be no AmericaOne broadcast. That leaves out Jesse's folks, Karen and Eric Barlow and Donna Tyler (whose son's first name has one "t"...:). These are only a few of the players' parents spread all across Canada and the northern US who can't travel to GA and AL for the playoffs. Now they can't watch it on the web either. Booooooo.
Still a lot of "ifs" in this situation, but IF the season ended today, the Havoc would finish in third and the Snakes fourth and the two would meet in round one. Huntsville, with home ice advantage, will host two of the series' three games, if a third one is necessary, in a practice rink.
This is a real shame, not only for the Snakes and their fans, but for the SPHL as well. In the story, coach Randy Murphy told writer Bill Bryant that this is a business. True. But aren't the Havoc the VBC's main tenant from October through the end of the playoffs in mid-April? I guess saying "yes" to the rodeo was financially more rewarding for the VBC, so that's the route the arena took.
But what about the league itself? I understand that commissioner Jim Combs would be reluctant to step in and tell them NO, but shouldn't teams be forced to provide an appropriate rink for a playoff game? One that is large enough to accomodate a crowd larger than 640? I understand that the Havoc earned home ice advantage and would be screaming if Columbus was awarded all three games.
At the very least, why didn't the team arrange for the building to be wired for the internet and, therefore, an AmericaOne broadcast? Too expensive? Probably, but this is the PLAYOFFS!! Somebody dropped the ball...uh, puck...here.
There is precedent for such a move. When the Jacksonville team was displaced prior to the 2007 finals with Fayetteville, they made arrangements for wiring the Jacksonville Ice practice rink and the games were broadcast via the b2 Network. I wasn't there, but heard they did a great job dealing with the challenges they faced.
The SPHL is a professional league that is now seven years old. It is a league that fights an ongoing battle against the "glorified beer league" label. A league that constantly strivies for both validation and credibility. So....round one of the playoffs is in a practice rink with no webcast. Very sad.
Not even getting into the challenges I'm dealing with in covering a game in the central time zone with no internet. I assume that as many bodies as the fire marshall will allow will be packed into the rink, so with my fellow sardines squishing together, balancing a laptop will be tricky. Oh, yea...a laptop plugged into what? Jerome, like he has nothing else to do, is trying to help me find a way to send my story. Hopefully my pal Mike Vee's wireless card will work.
Media coverage is just a small piece of the puzzle that helps spread a league's reputation and enhance its credibility. This may be the most challenging story I've done in seven seasons...a close second was the one I wrote in Huntsville after the then-longest SPHL game ever...more than 87 minutes, if I remember correctly. One more thank you to Ryan Haggarty who finally ended that game...haha.
Lots of info still to come, Snakes fans, but that's what I have at this moment.